As the country went into lock down in March, the courses and work usually undertaken by Positive Eye in the normal face-to-face manner ceased. With time available the only decision was what our contribution could be to help ease the situation for families and children? The next decision made at Positive Eye was a "no brainer," so to speak. "Marvin's Market Adventure" had already been presented both to professionals as a teaching resource and to parents and children at various events as a fun story. The obvious answer was therefore to broadcast this online via Facebook Live. It would be a show for families, children and educators to tell the adventures of Marvin and to bring a little positivity, fun and colour into everyone’s lives during COVID. On the 30th of March the first show went live.
Facebook Live and Online Craft-Making
It soon became clear that there was a growing audience and a need. Initial problems were overcome in regard to hardware, software and connectivity difficulties and the show developed into a coherent format. At each show families and educators were inclusively welcomed from all over the world. Each child watching enjoyed an individual spin of a rainbow wheel and a personalised welcome to the show. Next came "Superstar time" to celebrate the craft work and achievements of the children watching. This was then followed by a noisy, colourful story performance. Finally an online craft-making session meant the children could enjoy making a craft related to the next chapter of the story in between shows. They would then have a character to hold or explore during the next show. Over 120 amazing pieces of art work produced by the children is now displayed on the online Idea Machine Children’s art gallery, linked to the Positive Idea Machine Facebook page.
During the full lockdown period more Marvin adventures were written. For every chapter written, a new fun character was created, hand drawn and painted in high contrast colours. Some of the children’s favourites included "Fabulously Fabulous Fabiano the Frog," "Princess Peggy" and "Crazy Crab Craig!" The show was broadcast every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 4pm, and to date a total of 48 separate episodes have been broadcast live. Lots of parents contacted Positive Eye to share the difference the show was making to their children, how they were engaging and taking part. The response to the show has been overwhelming, to say the least, and many new connections have been made by those taking part. The positive outcomes for both educators and families watching the show have been greater than Positive Eye could possibly have planned for, or realised.
As one parent says….
“Having something fun new and exciting to do with Oliver has been amazing and we have looked forward to 4pm every Monday, Wednesday and Friday for weeks! Thank you so much for all the fun days, smiles and laughter you have given us.” (Leah – parent).
Although things have slowly begun to move towards pre-COVID times, many parents of the most vulnerable children are still shielding and their lives are a long way from normal. To continue doing as much as Positive Eye can to help, the show has moved to a weekly Friday slot throughout the summer months, for the community of existing enthusiastic viewers. A Grand Finale is to be performed for all the families at the end of August. A special new story "Marvin’s Rainbow Children’s Zoo Adventure," has been written. Each child has chosen an animal, named it and chosen its colours. They are drawn and painted and made as glittery as possible ready for the performance. Each child stars in the story as the special Zoo Keeper of their animal.
The Idea Machine Story Time Show is proof that online it is possible to connect with children with complex needs, all in this instance unknown to me beforehand. Repetition, colour, high contrast, fun, high energy and enthusiasm are just some of the ingredients to create a multi-sensory approach to literacy that reaches right out to children and importantly also their parents.